Manufacturing Excellence (MeX) 4.0
The manufacturing industry struggles to balance production with demand while maintaining cost efficiency. Globalisation and customer demand heightened competition for cheaper, customised products. Japan’s automotive revolution prompted the development of Lean manufacturing for efficiency and competitiveness against American giants. Yet, implementing Lean manufacturing poses challenges related to information, waste, change management, stakeholder buy-in, and alignment with business strategy. Integrating core processes and support functions is vital for a balanced production environment. Demonstrating the value of a Manufacturing Excellence (ME) programme can be challenging. And although manufacturing leads in digital transformation, a gap remains between factory physics and commercial aspects.
Key drivers for efficient manufacturing
The trade-offs of optimisation
Optimisation requires acknowledging the need for losses in the system. Siloed teams and ageing plant environments make it challenging to reach global optimisation using traditional methods. To leverage assets effectively, visibility and a unified problem-solving approach are essential across the supply chain.
Uncovering the hidden truths of your plant
Gaining visibility in manufacturing is crucial for executives; it eliminates waste and enables informed decision-making. By centralising information and creating transparency, reliance on new insights increases, prompting a drive for continuous system improvements and alignment with demand. The business can then understand the manufacturing space better, fostering innovation and adding value.
What exactly is Manufacturing Excellence (ME) 4.0?
Manufacturing Excellence (ME) refers to improvement programmes aimed at extracting value through methods like lean thinking and continuous improvement. ME is adaptable to changing needs and can integrate digital transformation. The objective is to deliver tangible customer value and improve the organisation’s top and bottom line. ME fosters a culture of continuous improvement and innovation for sustained success in meeting quality requirements.
ME 4.0 addresses the challenges of traditional ME programmes:
- Lack of leadership support hampers accountability and sustainability. Visualising shop floor realities through ME practices improves accountability and tracking.
- Inadequate training impedes performance excellence. Digital tools enhance training, process adoption, and workforce development.
- Culture outweighs tools. Aligning programme objectives with business strategy emphasises people, processes, and governance.
- Fear of redundancy is unfounded. ME 4.0 projects enhance management roles and problem-solving. Involving implementers in solution design mitigates fears.
- Thinking there is an end. The digital journey entails ongoing improvement, waste reduction, and cost management. Project-specific tools aid change tracking and sustaining improvement plans.
Digital tools can help address common challenges in manufacturing, but there is a risk of technology exacerbating issues if not implemented correctly. By combining technology with a strong focus on cultural and process efficiency, the transition to a culture of continuous improvement can be facilitated.
ME maturity and acceleration
Manufacturers in South Africa face the challenge of meeting increasing customer demands while dealing with ageing equipment, reliance on institutional knowledge, and global competition. Accelerating progress requires conviction, smarter thinking, and a holistic approach to continuous improvement. Setting achievable targets and making incremental progress is often the logical path forward in this complex environment.
- Manufacturing excellence is crucial in the South African context, requiring an understanding of maturity to achieve performance excellence.
- Digital tools have significantly reduced the effort needed for change and process optimisation in manufacturing. Technology can address common challenges, and cost-effective data acquisition and visualisation have benefits beyond the shop floor.
- Understanding business trade-offs brings top management closer to shop floor realities.
- Creating a single source of truth breaks functional silos and dispels myths about shop floor performance.
To remain globally competitive and achieve Manufacturing Excellence, manufacturers must stay lean and adaptable. However, many facilities with low manufacturing maturity struggle to embrace continuous improvement. There is a comfort in maintaining the status quo, which blinds workers to the need for improved, safer, and more efficient practices. This ‘factory blindness’ occurs when workers resist change due to years of routine activities, hindering their ability to perceive areas that require improvement.
To address factory blindness and foster a culture of continuous improvement, manufacturers can take the following steps:
- Encourage interdepartmental shop floor reviews to gain fresh perspectives on routine activities.
- Record key activities during production cycles for later review and improvement.
- Benchmark key process steps against industry best practices to develop improvement plans.
- Conduct daily Gemba walks to initiate continuous improvement on the shop floor.
ME 4.0 uncovers the hidden truths of your plant through frameworks for value extraction, accountability, training, and sustained success. To solve the challenges of traditional ME programmes, emphasise cultural and process efficiency as part of your transition towards continuous improvement. What follows is a factory that operates with all eyes open.
PwC | Associate Director | Smart Manufacturing Lead
Daniel Tharushen Reddy
PwC | Senior Manager | MeX Lead
Mobile: +27 (64) 656 3699